Scientific study claims that your age affects what you see in this optical illusion

Scientific study claims that your age affects what you see in this optical illusion

Are brains are pretty amazing when you think about. Being able to process so much information about the world around us, while maintaining the many processes running throughout our body, without us having to consciously think about any of it, is remarkable. The fact that we can read, write, invent scientific solutions or ponder philosophical mysteries too - it's incredible, really.

However, there are times where there are little glitches and quirks to the way we process information.

Regardless of how powerful are minds are, sometimes they can get pretty confused over something which, to us, seems like it should be simple. Optical illusions are a great example of this - providing us with basic images that should be easy to decipher, but end up getting us all tangled up.

There have been plenty of great optical illusions created over the years, and even some ones made by accident - such as 'The Dress,' which led to thousands of arguments over whether it was black and blue or white and gold.

One of the most famous optical illusions is 'My Wife and My Mother-in-Law'. In the photo, you can either see a young woman, turning away, or an older woman looking to the left side of the image.

You can only see one at the time, and people tend to see a different version of the image first than others do.

optical illusion Credit: Wikipedia Commons

If you look at the image, you can see that the younger woman's chin doubles up as the older woman's nose, her chest is the old woman's chin, and her necklace forms the old woman's mouth.

It became well known after it was published in American humour magazine Puck, by British cartoonist William Ely Hill in 1915. "They are both in this picture - Find them," he wrote in the caption, but there was an earlier instance of the illusion, the oldest known form appearing on an 1888 German postcard.

In 1930, Edwin Boring introduced the figure to the field of psychology, in a paper titled 'A new ambiguous figure'.

Since then, it's become even more well-known, and included in various studies and experiments over the years. Now, a recent Australian study, titled 'Perception of an ambiguous figure is affected by own-age social biases,' is making a new claim about the image. Published in the journal Scientific Reports, and conducted at Flinders University in Australia, they posit that younger people will see the younger woman first, while older viewers will see the older woman instead.

The study included 393 participants (242 male, 141 female) with ages that ranged between 18 to 68. All participants were shown the image for half a second, and then were asked what the gender and age of the person was. The researchers noticed that when they separated the youngest 10% and the oldest 10%, the younger viewers saw the young woman first, and the older viewers saw the old woman.

The point of  this study was to determine if "own-age biases affect the initial interpretation of an image at a subconscious level," and it seems that they've found a correlation. Just don't think too hard about their definition of 'old' is, if you end up seeing the old woman in the image first.